Manchester mean street a gift for actors
FOR a writer so fond of outsized characters, such as Cracker ’ s Eddie Fitzgerald and almost everybody in The Lakes , Jimmy McGovern is an acute observer of the small, quiet moments that reveal much about people’s lives.
Such as when Stan ( Jim Broadbent), in bed with his wife of 46 years, Brenda ( Sue Johnston), leans over to switch off the radio. They exchange a look that brims with the compromises, disappointments and barely suppressed resentments of a near half-century union.
Stan and Brenda are residents of the Manchester street of the title. Tonight is episode two of six but don’t worry if you missed last week’s as there are flashbacks to bring you up to speed. Stan is about to turn 65, which means he must retire from his beloved, 40-year job at a local warehouse. To make matters worse, he learns that his retirement savings are worth a pittance.
Last week, Stan witnessed the event that is central to the drama: one of the residents, Peter ( Shaun Dooley), ran over one of the neighbourhood children, Katie. At the time he was having an affair with Katie’s mum, Angela ( Jane Horrocks). ‘‘ I’m happily married,’’ she tells him. ‘‘ Well, you’re married,’’ he replies, deciding the matter.
Katie survives but is partially paralysed. Despite Stan’s damning evidence in court, Peter is exonerated. But just when you think Stan is an old dodderer, he surprises you by a robust exchange with his boss, Steve ( Charles Dale). He decides to kill himself but his reasons are more complex than he realises, or admits, at first.
Doomed affair: Shaun Dooley and Jane Horrocks in
This first series of The Street , which aired in Britain in 2006, won a BAFTA award for best drama series, and Broadbent won an International Emmy Award for best actor. A second series screened in 2007 and a third is in pre-production. The cast alone makes it a pleasure to watch, especially old favourites such as Timothy Spall and David Thewlis, who does a Jeremy Irons in series two, playing identical twins. Horrocks, best known as the daffy character Bubble in Absolutely Fabulous , is a standout in a role a universe removed from that one.
The Street is not as consistently outstanding as, say, The Lakes ( both directed by David Blair). There are uneven patches — tonight’s lunatic asylum scene is cliched — and occasions when the characters’ motivations are a little thin. Even so, it is high-quality television, particularly in the performances, that is sure to keep you watching until the end.